Katrina - Katrina Retrospective and Progress in Recovery

Do you know what it means…to see New Orleans?

No doubt, you heard. Hurricane Katrina passed through the area a while back?

Yes, the last 18 months have been not only difficult to comprehend for us living here, I think it’s been almost impossible to comprehend by the rest of the country…and the world. Nobody wants to be the poster-child for metropolitan-wide devastation. There’s also no way to compare “my destruction is more severe than your destruction”, it tends to overshadow need as a basic unit of measure.

Perhaps the circumstances of New Orleans has revealed much more about what catastrophic change means on a metropolitan scale than has been previously understood by Americans, a deeper and more troubling revelation. New Orleans is fighting many challenges that are rooted in the history of New Orleans…and this country. Politics, social injustice, crime, poverty and bureaucratic incompetence unraveling what would seem to be obvious paths to solutions, these are not unique to New Orleans. The fact is, most major cities in the US skirt these issues without solving them by the same circumstances that gave harbor to such problems veiled within New Orleans before the catastrophe began. But here, once the entire population, infrastructure, economy and stability was denuded of cover, now we can see more clearly the undercurrent. New Orleans is the end of the Mississippi River and it shares the good and bad of this country just as the river brings a stream of water from half-way across the country. New Orleans is a focal point, it’s a crisis unfolded, and it’s a revelation with a touch point now. Many of the topics to pursue are far flung off-topic for this conference, and so I will track to the matters I feel most people want to understand as they plan to visit New Orleans, a status on what’s right and recovering.

Some insights on New Orleans that I know are of interest and concern to many people follow below, I have received many good wishes and statements of support for this city. Those of us living in New Orleans are floating between a sense of disbelief of how many challenges we have, but with greater optimism that we are going to bring our home back from the brink of destruction. For those who value having a home here, this city will survive and thrive again.

So many challenges to pursue a conversation about where New Orleans is in recovery and what lies on the road ahead depend upon everyone grasping a reality-based understanding of basic facts. Quadrants of the metropolitan area are still as wiped out as war zone, yet other quadrants never looks better or more pleasant. Imagine how a Disneyland theme park moves you in steps from castles to space travel to the Old West as you cross a boundary…this is how it feels, but much less amusing. What is ready and running is exceedingly ready and hospitable. What isn’t lies beyond the glance inspection for a visitor who chooses not to explore those quadrants. Yes, you really can fly into New Orleans, take a cab into the city and spend a week here in downtown without knowing you are in the center of the largest catastrophe in the nation’s history…because you don’t see it anywhere the business and tourism areas are located. In addition, for all the major damage to residential areas around the city, there were yet other residential areas that survived without damage and these are holding the city’s backbone industry together with labor, housing and services.

As challenging as it is to make New Orleans home during this period, it’s eerie to experience how dramatically easy it is to be part of the visitor based economy and how well prepared that industry is again. New Orleans is both ready for convention and tourism business without apologies, and yet desperately needing to continue a long-term progression to rebuild the surrounding neighborhoods that still today lie in destruction. Recognize that the properties mired in the crush of damage belong to individual people, businesses and home owners, and yet also to the city itself, the state and the federal government. Amid house and shopping centers being razed or rebuilt are abandoned firehouses, police stations, churches, schools, hospitals and parks. Everyone who was invested owning land or resources before Katrina is still invested and committed, or on the way to taking a terrible loss and injustice. New Orleans is an asset of this country that has many investors. Some are invested in their heart, some in they needs for the goods and industry of this area you don’t necessarily know of affecting you. It goes beyond just living here. The short-term will require dirty hands and dirty jobs to be undertaken, but it’s clear that the path to the future is in moving forward by the will and prosperity of those who are investing in better days ahead.

The people of New Orleans are just 18 months past Katrina as I write this, and New Orleans is still one of the best places in the country to have a convention or to be a tourist. We have the pride of the hospitality industry experience that is the envy of the world, and the entertainment resources that are reinvigorated by locals who refuse to stop making it their business to ensure that you have a great time in our city.

Please take a moment to consider what I offer below in the testimonials of visitors and fabulous news of economic independence returning to our city. Better yet, come see for yourself.

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Restaurants in New Orleans

More than 1,500 restaurants in are open in the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan area as of December 2006. This includes most of the city's culinary treasures, including such renowned restaurants as Galatoire's, Emeril's, Arnaud's, Commander's Palace, Emeril's Delmonico, Bayona, Herbsaint, Restaurant August, G.W. Fin's, Bacco, Peristyle, Palace Cafe, Lilette, Brigsten's, K-Paul's, Cuvee, NOLA, Bourbon House, Broussard's and Antoine's.

In addition, many of the city's favorite neighborhood hotspots such as  Mother's, Casamento's, Ralph's on the Park, Clancy's, Jacques-Imo's, Upperline, Acme Oyster House, Gumbo Shop, Cafe du Monde, Muriel's, Tujague's, Tommy's and Pascal's Manale are also welcoming diners.

Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Susan Spicer, Donald Link and 2006 James Beard winner John Besh have returned to their kitchens. Chefs are celebrities here, their dishes considered works of art and their restaurants nothing short of revered. And for every culinary passion you can imagine, New Orleans has an inspired menu to match.

Information gathered from www.neworleanscvb.com

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Mardi Gras 2007…New Orleans hosts the party for 800,000 People

Good times roll in Big Easy 2/21/07
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-02-20-fat-tuesday_x.htm

Chill doesn't deter Carnival crowds 2/18/07
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/02/18/chill_doesnt_deter_carnival_crowds/

Going to Mardi Gras? Yes, you can take the kids. 2/8/07
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/02/08/DDGP7O01DK1.DTL

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Hollywood South…Filming in New Orleans

The movie business has returned to New Orleans over the past year, with the city regaining its Hollywood South moniker. Over 30 movies released in 2006 were filmed in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, including: All the King’s Men, Bug, Failure to Launch, Glory Road, Last Holiday and Déjà Vu—the first movie to be filmed in New Orleans post-Katrina. Currently, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, is being filmed in the city. With a budget of $150 million, this is the most expensive film to ever shoot in New Orleans. There are currently over 20 movies that are filming or will be filming in New Orleans with a planned 2007 release. Film and television studios are expected to have an economic impact of more than $400 million this year.

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Proving Ourselves to the Convention Industry… 25,000 people at a time

During the past year, we hosted some very large conferences, events and attractions. These included conference for 15,000 to 25,000 attendees including the American Library Association in June 2006, the National Association of Realtors in November 2006, the Healthcare Information & Management Society in February 2007. Yet probably the most important event, the Meeting Professionals International's Professional Education Conference (PEC) held in January 2007, was the barometer to where we are headed now…recovery and respect. This conference was for a mere 2600 attendees, but these are the people who plan corporate meetings and major conferences across the country and worldwide. What these folks would take home is what determines the critical impression of New Orleans based upon the their opinions and experiences knowing all the major conference cities and experiences available. What did they have to say? New Orleans is ready!

I’ve collected some reviews of what’s going on here to help you get a sense of what visitors are saying about their experience in New Orleans. With few exceptions, visitors to New Orleans are reporting surprise that the city is running, even appears to be exceeding expectations. This is because the expectations are too low for most people who are not yet ready to believe in the city and the commitment we locals have to making this work…helping ourselves, and inviting you to help us with your chance to see a remarkable comeback underway.

If you think you will have to rough it in New Orleans, you are mistaken. If you want to see the devastation in the surrounding areas, you can take that opportunity to understand first hand that on the boundary line between what was destroyed and what was spared, you can have your feet in two different worlds. New Orleans needs your help to bring us whole again. Come be a part of our recovery by enjoying your chance to experience New Orleans, and understand the lessons we can share.

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Convention Visitors go away impressed

Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Times-Picayune Newspaper – New Orleans

As a recent attendee to the [Healthcare Information & Management Society] HIMSS health care conference and a relocated New Orleanian, I must say how proud I was of the way New Orleans was viewed by all who attended.

I entered the conference with a great deal of anxiety, as I was constantly being questioned about New Orleans' ability to handle this kind of event. Before the conference many of the attendees openly asked why we would go to New Orleans when the city appeared not to be ready for us.

It was not until the weekend before on my annual [parade] ride on Endymion that I felt comfortable that this was not going to be a train wreck for the city. New Orleans needs to know that it hosted some of the most sophisticated yet apprehensive conventioneers and blew them away with the city's positive attitude. Even I noticed how welcoming and friendly everyone was during my two-week stay.

The city has sent some 25,000 attendees home -- which means all over the world, by the way -- with a very positive feeling about its rebirth. Also, the feedback on the restaurants was that they were as good as ever.

This was a big step toward recovery.

Joe Purnell
Vice President of Sales
Athenahealth
Suwanee, Ga.

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Major Convention Attendees Give New Orleans Thumbs Up!

Firsthand Report from New Orleans 1/26/07
http://www.misoapbox.com/2007/01/firsthand_repor.html

I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw--if you did not know that a hurricane and flood had come through town, you would have never known it from walking around the French Quarter and the business district, which in fact were barely flooded at all.

Yes, outlying neighborhoods in New Orleans are far from being back to normal. But you can help them get back to normal more quickly by holding a meeting or trade show in downtown New Orleans, where the quality of the hospitality product is back to being A-1.

New Orleans Showcases Itself in Meeting Planners' Conference
http://www.mimegasite.com/mimegasite/articles/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003550324

New Orleans — Concerns about the Big Easy's ability to host meetings and conventions since Hurricane Katrina — and fears surrounding a recent spate of crime around the city — were largely allayed during Meeting Professionals International's Professional Education Conference (PEC), held here in late January.

By all accounts, the tourist areas of New Orleans — particularly the two-mile area between the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the French Quarter, and Jackson Square, where most of the upscale business hotels are located — were open for business, clean, and buzzing with New Orleans spirit.

New Orleans rallies for convention 11/11/2006
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/111106dnbusNewOrleans.31b7b92.html

More than 25,000 real estate agents are meeting in New Orleans at the biggest conference held since last year's devastating hurricane. The National Association of Realtors annual meeting is one of the top conventions in the country.

"We need each and every single meeting, whether it be association, corporate, incentive – you name it," said Amy Reimer, general manager of New Orleans' International House hotel. "Each meeting makes the difference to the survival of the tourism industry in New Orleans.

"Each and every individual that attends a meeting in New Orleans becomes a voice for New Orleans," she said. "The city can spend millions and millions in advertising, but as we all know, you certainly are going to believe a friend or relative when they say, 'Wow, the city really is open for business!' "

Kelly Schulz with the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau said the city's initial test came in June [2006], when the American Library Association held its meeting at the convention center.

"The tourism corridor of the city – where convention delegates or business travelers would go – was not flooded," Ms. Schulz said. "The images of devastation and rebuilding people see on the television are outside that area. It would be like Plano was flooded, but downtown Dallas was still OK."

National Association of Realtors Triumphs In New Orleans 11/14/07
http://realtytimes.com/rtapages/20061114_nartriumphs.htm

Some people are still skittish about visiting New Orleans. But they shouldn't be. Over 25,000 Realtors, spouses, vendors and more agree that the people of New Orleans have a spirit that no hurricane can ever crush. After dozens of on-the-street interviews, one thing is clear -- Realtors feel like they are helping New Orleans get back on its dancing feet.

"The fact that the largest trade association in the United States trusted New Orleans to host its record-breaking meeting, should send a resounding message to the world that New Orleans convention business is back."

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Convention and Tourism in 2007 evolves “Voluntourism”

Many corporations are drawn to New Orleans for the wealth of “voluntourism” opportunities available during meetings to expand strategic philanthropic and branding efforts. Recent corporate meetings held in the city include Whirlpool Corporation, Coca-Cola, Konica Minolta, Sherwin Williams and IBM.

Since Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the metropolitan New Orleans community has been the beneficiary of an incredible outpouring of support from visitors to New Orleans. From convention visitors to leisure travelers, church groups to high school and college students, people have shown incredible generosity in giving of their time and talent, and a great deal of elbow grease, helping the city of New Orleans in its recovery and restoration.

Volunteer Opportunities
http://www.neworleanscvb.com/docs/VolunteerOpportunities_1.pdf

Greater New Orleans Volunteer Connection
http://www.volunteerlouisiana.gov/1800Vol/new-orleans-volunteers-of-america/vcindex.do

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Major Meetings Committed for 2007

Convention/Organization

Dates

Attendees

Healthcare Information & Management Society

Feb. 24 – Mar. 1

(city-wide)/24000

American Association of School Administrators

Feb. 28 – Mar. 4

7000

National Collegiate Athletic Association

Mar. 14 – 17

(city-wide)/20000

American College of Healthcare Executives

Mar. 18 – 22

4000

International Association for Dental Research

Mar. 20 – 25

6000

American College of Cardiology

Mar. 23 – 27

(city-wide)/30000

American Institute of Steel Construction

Apr. 17 – 21

2000

Institute of Scrap Recycling

Apr. 17 – 22

3300

Risk & Insurance Management Society

Apr. 29 – May 4

(city-wide)/30000

American College of Sports Medicine

May 29-June 2

4000

Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.

June 10-13

1000

American Association of Law Libraries

July 14-19/2800

 

National Council of State Housing Agencies

Sept. 15-18

(city-wide)/10000

American College of Surgeons

Oct. 6-11

(city-wide)/16000

International Association of Chiefs of Police

Oct. 13-17

(city-wide)/10000

American Society for Clinical Pathology

Oct. 17-21

5000

American Society of Agronomy

Nov. 4-8

4800

American Academy of Ophthalmology

Nov. 9-13

(city-wide)/25000

Pennwell Corporation

Dec. 11-14

(city-wide)/17000


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